Who is Liberty? What to know ahead of the Fiesta Bowl vs. Oregon
The undefeated Conference USA champion, Liberty finished the regular season as the highest ranked Group of Five team in the final College Football Playoff rankings, allowing the Flames to play in their first New Year’s Six bowl game, and arguably biggest game in program history.
But the Fiesta Bowl might be the first time several college football fans will be watching Liberty this season, or at all. Here’s what to know about the Flames ahead of kickoff:
Where is Liberty?
Liberty University is located in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school was founded in 1971, and the football team began in 1973.
Who is the Liberty head coach?
The head coach of the Flames is Jamey Chadwell, who is in his first season at the helm. He was previously the head coach of Coastal Carolina.
Why is Liberty called the Flames?
Being a private Christian university, Liberty’s nickname has religious ties.
Liberty’s motto is “Knowledge aflame,” which the university says represents “the light of the Gospel that Liberty students take with them out into the world.” The name was voted upon by students in 1974.
“This light is so central to Liberty’s identity that its sports teams bear the name, ‘the Liberty Flames,'” according to the university.
Liberty’s mascot is an eagle named Sparky. An eagle was decided in 1980 because “of the patriotic symbolism connected with the school’s name,” according to the university, while the name Sparky matches the Flames theme.
Why is Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl?
Liberty was selected to the Fiesta Bowl because it finished as the highest ranked Group of Five team in the final College Football Playoff rankings. As the highest ranked Group of Five team, Liberty was to be placed in one of the New Year’s Six bowls, and with no conference tie-in, the Fiesta Bowl was chosen as the destination for the Flames.
Liberty 2023 season
The 2023 season was the most successful season in Liberty history, achieving its first perfect regular season at 13-0. In its first season in Conference USA, Liberty dominated most of its opponents, winning 11 of its 13 games by double-digits, including the Conference USA Championship Game against New Mexico State.
Liberty features one of the most high powered offenses in the country, as its 514.9 yards per games is third in the country and its 40.8 points per game ranks fifth. Liberty does most of its damage on the ground, with its 302.9 rushing yards per game ranking first in the country. On the defensive side, the Flames are one of the best ball-hawking groups in the country with their 21 interceptions the highest in the country.
While Liberty is one of three undefeated teams, along with No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington, it certainly benefited from an easy schedule this season. The Flames strength of schedule ranked last in all of FBS.
Liberty football players to watch
RB Quinton Cooley: The leader of the best rushing attack in FBS, Cooley has 1,322 rushing yards this season, which was ninth-most in the regular season. The Wake Forest-transfer also had 16 rushing touchdowns on the year.
QB Kaidon Salter: The sophomore signal-caller is having one of the best quarterback seasons in Liberty history, holding the single-season record for passing touchdowns (31) and touchdowns responsible for (43). Salter has thrown for 2,750 passing yards this season with 31 touchdowns and five interceptions, as well as 1,064 rushing yards, the second most by a quarterback this season behind Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels.
WR CJ Daniels: By far the top target of Salter, Daniels hauled in 47 receptions this season for 988 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had six games of at least 100 receiving yards, including a career-high with 157 yards in the conference title game.
S Brylan Green and CB Kobe Singleton: Two of the best defenders on the team, Green leads the team in interceptions with five, tied for the fifth most in the FBS. Singleton is not far behind with four passes picked off this season.
Liberty’s short time in FBS
The Fiesta Bowl appearance is a great achievement considering Liberty is only a few years into its time as an FBS school.
Liberty transitioned from the Big South in the FCS to an FBS independent in 2018, and gained full bowl eligibility status in 2019. Since becoming an FBS member, Liberty has been one of the most successful football teams in the country with a 53-22 record − the 13th most wins since 2018 − all while never having a losing record.
The Flames made their first appearance in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches’ Poll in 2020, and this season was the first time they were ranked in the College Football Playoff poll. Liberty will be playing in a New Year’s Six bowl in just its sixth FBS season, the quickest in the CFP era.
Liberty bowl history
The Fiesta Bowl will be Liberty’s fifth bowl game in team history. The Flames have enjoyed success in the postseason with a 3-1 record. Here is the bowl history of Liberty:
- 2019 Cure Bowl: Win vs. Georgia Southern, 23-16
- 2020 Cure Bowl: Win vs. Coastal Carolina, 37-34
- 2021 LendingTree Bowl: Win vs. Eastern Michigan, 56-20
- 2022 Boca Raton Bowl: Loss vs. Toledo, 21-19
First appeared on www.usatoday.com